SPIRITUAL HEAD OF THE MUHAMMEDANS 147
Hence a negro who is well learned in Muslim matters has the right to obtain a respectful hearing for his opinions. In our history there is such a case where a Caliph on the throne took advice from a black slave who was well versed in the Prophet's teachings and sayings. Of course, such a man was not kept a slave after that."
"May I ask, Your Eminence, whether mosques are essential to your religion?"
"No, people use them as places in which to pray, and they go there to hear a sermon on Fridays, but, as there are no priests or ceremonies, the mosques are not essential to the practice of Islam. Muslims may pray anywhere, not necessarily in a mosque—any piece of clean ground will do. Our object in building mosques is to bring unity by social fellowship in worship. Nevertheless, although not essential, worship in a mosque is naturally preferable."
"What is the nature of your prayers?" Came the quiet restrained voice:
"When a Muslim prays it is understood that he repeats a section of the Qurw which he has learnt by memory. Usually it contains certain sentences which are traditionally known to contain the things a man should think of when he prays. I must say and repeat that the object of our prayers is not only to do our duty towards God, but also to be spiritually educated during the time we say them. The Muslim who repeats these words, day after day, is thus constandy reminded of them. There could not be better words to use in prayer than those set him by the Quran for this purpose. 'We pray to Thee and only Thee. We ask for no help except from Thee/ Such are two sentences often used. Besides, set sentences help ignorant men.
"Our prayers are quite short, they consist of the opening paragraph of the Quran and seven other texts; but those who wish to do so can add any other texts they select. But no prayers of a man's own making may be added to these texts.
"The Muslim must pray five times a day. Should force of circumstances stop him from saying his prayers at the right time, then he must make up for it later. It is forbidden to miss a single hour of prayer."